Paula S. Reed
Daniel Donnelly House
14906, Falling Waters Road, Williamsport, Washington County
The Daniel Donnelly House is a brick, two-story c. 1883 dwelling on a prominent hill, overlooking rolling farmland to the south. The five-bay south facade, laid in Flemish bond brick, shows influence of the Federal and Greek Revival styles. Loose bricks filling put-log holes can still be seen at regular intervals at the front elevation; a rarely seen detail of 19th century masonry construction techniques. Front openings are surmounted by splayed jack arches. The side and rear walls are laid in common bond, with put-log holes also evident. The house stands on a stone foundation. Flush brick chimneys rise behind wide overhanging eaves with cornice returns at the east and west gable ends. The wide central entrance has 3-light sidelights and a 7-light transom, all surmounted by a wide jack arch. A shadow on the bricks of the front facade indicate the presence of a former one-bay porch. Currently, the entrance is accessed by a one-bay stone porch with no roof, with stairs on either side and an iron railing. The east and west gable ends of the house are only pierced by a single six-light attic window. All other windows on the house are 6/6 sash. The south facade is three bays wide, with a rear entrance in the center bay, slightly lower than the first-floor windows in height. The second-floor central bay is also lower than its flanking windows. On the interior, the staircase rises along the west side of the wide entrance hall. The staircase has simple square newel posts with square balusters beneath a rounded handrail. The front portion of the stair and entrance hall has fancier trim, consisting of detailed, deeply cut symmetrical molding. The staircase and trim in the rear portion is very plain and quite different in character. There are two rooms on each side of the entrance passage. On the east side is a double parlor that was once divided by three folding doors. Each parlor has a fireplace approximately 40" wide and 16" deep along the east wall. All of the fireplaces in the house have their original mantels with low-relief panels and symmetrically molded trim. There is a built-in cupboard adjacent to the fireplace in each first-floor room. The cupboard in the southeast room has decorative shaped "butterfly" shelves. On the west side of the hall, the front room is almost a mirror image of the parlor across the hall. About a third of the northwest room was partitioned off in the 1970s to add a bathroom. The cellar contains two rooms, including an original kitchen with a service fireplace beneath the parlor and another room with a fireplace beneath the southwest room, which serves as the modern kitchen for the house. The interior is remarkably intact, with most of its original pine floors, trim, and hardware remaining. Several doors retain their English-made Carpenter locks. The flat panels of the interior doors have been scribed to make them appear to be raised panels. These simple scribe marks are quite effective at fooling the eye. Chair rail and crown moldings have been added in the hallway and a few other rooms. Outbuildings include a small garden house, shed, and summerhouse, all small late-20th century structures. The original barn site is to the northwest of the house. A later dairy barn was located east of the house. Both are now gone.
The Daniel Donnelly House and its surrounding acreage are significant for their association with the Civil War Battle of Falling Waters, July 13th and 14th, 1863. The ridge behind the house was at the center of that action, which occurred during the Confederate retreat from Gettysburg. A study by the Civil War Sites Advisory Commission found the Donnelly House property to be the best preserved battlefield along the route of Lee's retreat from Gettysburg. The house is also significant as an excellent example of an early-19th century (c. 1830s) farmhouse, exhibiting influence from the Federal and Greek Revival styles. Its superior level of architectural detailing reflects the relative prosperity of its owner during a period when the region's grain-based agricultural economy was maturing. The interior retains much of its original woodwork, hardware, and floor plan. Another distinctive feature of the house is the survival of put-log holes on all four exterior walls, indicating the placement of scaffold poles during construction.